VENGEANCE!

This is not a post about revenge. It’s a post about the largest Guild Ball event I’ve been to, and possibly the largest in the UK. As such, this is a long post about Guild Ball – you’re warned! This year marked the third anniversary of the event and I finally overcame my social anxiety and concerns for my ability at the game to go along for the weekend extravaganza of Guild Ball and gaming. jumping in a hire van with five other Surrey Spartans, we began our literal Road to Vengeance after weeks of “planning” and “preparation”.

The journey up was beset by traffic and John Parish insisting we take it in turns to add a song to the playlist queue until we had ‘music for days’. We did end up with music for days, but in a collection most politely described as eclectic. The mix of genres, pace and style contained in that playlist would be nigh-on impossible to repeat, and I doubt any single person would attempt it. I did get to (finally) hear Man’s Not Hot, which was actually great, and bewilder Barry G with the amount of “pirate” music we could put together.

Traveling up was a lot of fun – Dan Adams, Barry G, John Parish and Matt Doran have been playing Guild Ball for ages and now run a podcast on it (Roll Better), while Ric III (actually the third of his name) and I are newer players. We are all great mates and this made for an immensely enjoyable road trip.

There was very little strategic talk, which I’d like to say was a product of our “preparation” but as the inverted commas suggest this wasn’t as good as it could have been. I have been playing Hunters solidly for about three months and was confident with them but probably should have spent that time practicing my Farmer game play and taken them instead as I had a good five or six months of experience with them before hand. I did go to two events leading up to Vengeance, one of which I won but the other I played Ratcatchers “just to try them out”. They were new; their Captain, Piper, looked fun; I figured maybe it would be a good idea.

It wasn’t. At least I know I won’t want to try playing them ever again. Not that the team is bad, or terrible, or anything like that; I just find it boring. Piper is the only model with enough fun things on his card for me to really be drawn in by and I’m not going to play or buy an eight person team for the sake of one model.

During my practice with Hunters I’d started with Skatha as I wanted to do more football-y things when I shifted Guilds – not hard, since Farmers don’t do many football-y things. However, I abandoned Skatha as I got used to the team and discovered that Theron is in fact much better. I also picked up Veteran Minx, partly because she was new and shiny and I like the model for use as a role playing miniature but also because she is actually very useful.

The ten I’d picked for Vengeance were: Theron; Fahad; Jaecar; Chaska; Egret; Hearne (the first); Veteran Minx; Seenah; Ulfr; Zarola.

When we arrived at Ric accepted my offer of a game, and I played like a plum for the first third so he nearly won before I brought it back in the second third. The third third was abandoned due to us wanting food, and Ric claiming I would probably have won. While I like that conclusion, it wasn’t a sure thing. Food did call, however, so we joined the others at a nearby Beef Eater for dinner, catching up with Sam Page as well. Despite our best interrogation and temptation techniques, the man was inscrutable and gave away no spoilers. Disappointed but unsurprised, we went to bed in preparation for a weekend of excitement and, hopefully, victory.

 

Vengeance V3: Day 1

Dan and John weren’t able to play as (un?)fortunately the Steamforged staff who were going to be running the tournament stream weren’t able to make it, and Roll Better had been asked if they would be happy to do so instead. Dan and John eagerly agreed. I haven’t as yet watched their commentary but I am looking forward to it greatly. After we crashed Longshanks, the system for organising tournament games and the global rankings, we gradually managed to find out who and where the rest of us were playing and set out throwing down.

Game 1: VS Andrew Carr (Fishermen)

I do not enjoy playing Fish, usually. They are fast, slippery, have too many 2″ reaches for Jaecar to really enjoy himself and both Shark and Corsair are annoying captains to have to deal with. Andrew, who was a lovely guy to play first and someone I’m glad I was drawn against in the first round over the plethora of scarily-skilled players I already knew were attending. Not to imply Andrew wasn’t good – I just didn’t know him, or how good he was. That meant I wouldn’t be intimidated by his reputation, and I could blame my defeat of ignorance rather than fear.

Our teams were as follows:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Jaecar, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Andrew: Shark, Tentacles, Siren, Greyscales, Hag and (I think) Jac.

Andrew not playing Corsair meant I wouldn’t have to deal with the big ball of Tough Hide, Sturdy, Close Control nonsense that model brings with it. Instead I’d just have to deal with knowing that in turn one Shark would score and I’d essentially be 0-4 down for the start of the game.

Planning a snap back goal, even though I was receiving, I collected the ball from my left field and kicked over to Zarola, hoping Andrew would make some silly mistake like forget that Zarola had Unpredictable Movement and he would also pointless go to 1″ of her rather than 2″, which was Shark’s reach. A misplaced Jawbone Trap from Minx meant Shark could charge neatly around it and engage her without taking damage and rather than Defensive Stancing the charge I saved my momentum. Now I write about it, this seems silly but my brain was locked into snap-back mode and thought I’d safely counter this early, reliable four dice Shark goal with a surprise Fahad leap across the table followed by a one dice tap in from the murder cat.

Not my best plan.

Unfortunately for Andrew Shark missed the Tidal Surge off the charge and so, despite still dodging over to Zarola (not forgetting Unpredictable Movement) and tackling the ball of her 5+ defense he was 1″ off making a shot on goal.

I spent the rest of my turn crowding my Hunters around Shark and punching him in the face. Turn two began with me going first do the sea of momentum I’d got for taking Shark down to one hit point. Andrew played the Game Plan that gave us both a 4″ dodge, so I sent Jaecar after the ball which had scattered when Shark had been knocked down and Andrew tried to get Shark into a safer/more awkward position for me to finish him off in.

It wasn’t quite awkward enough, as Fahad could get a straight line to him. The murder cat took a Furious Charge first activation and removed a six influence Shark from the pitch. Andrew told me after the game he’d given him six because if he had got to go, he would have scored. This is true, but I didn’t see a way he could have survived except me forgetting he existed in my first activation.

I strolled up the centre of the pitch, happily making ranged plays with Theron and Hearne while the others finished off people. I managed two more take outs before I scored, bringing me to a healthy 8/12 points. I let the ball go loose and planned a snap back goal after Shark, freshly returned to the pitch at the top of turn three, came back and tried another run. Andrew’s kick out safely placed the ball in Shark’s goal run, and took the shot. He scored, of course, and my kick out wasn’t the best, falling somewhere centre pitch. Still, confident I had time to play with I activated Theron to finish off Hag, bringing be to a safe 10-4 points.

Then Andrew reminded me that Greyscales is in fact a very good footballer, and used him to smuggle the ball out from under my whole team’s noses and scored a second goal. The old man dodged behind a barrier, next to Shark, and for the second time in as many activations I had to kick the ball out. This time it went off to my far left field, as Greyscales and Shark were lurking in the centre right, and Jaecar was sent on an errand to run and grab it, knifing any Fish player who got close.

Turn four I got to start, which meant Jaecar could run back and pass to Zarola who was hiding in cover and out of reach of the lurking Fish strikers. Jac attempted to get back in the mix, but was too far to be relevant, and Zarola passed the ball to V-Minx and then Midnight Jog’d her another 7″ up field, safely away from anyone on the other team and into easy range of the goal. Siren tried to get to her but was unsuccessful, and in lieu of taking a slightly risky shot on goal I sent Theron back to ruin Shark’s day, Pinning and Snaring the enemy captain so he couldn’t escape Hearne’s sudden arrival via forest. Hearne took him out and I took the win 12-4.

Game 2: VS Ed Ball – Morticians

Our teams were as follows:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Jaecar, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Ed: Obulus, Dirge, Ghast, Veteran Hemlocke, Graves and Silence.

Ed played the first turn very well, and even though I suspected what he was doing I played really sensibly. I grouped up four of my players around a barrier, putting Hearne just outside its 1″ cover aura with his terrible Defense of 3+/1 Armour. This meant that the Ghast-a-pult Ed spent his first turn setting up had a really juicy target for a Tooled Up charge into Unmasking. Theron additionally got Flame Blasted from Silence after missing most of his shots and forgetting his forest while Zarola and Fahad awkwardly jogged the other way with the ball.

Ghast continued to be a problem for me, until I got my act together in turn three and had him Crowded Out by Hearne and Minx, Snared and Singled Out. Jaecar came in and managed eighteen damage and six momentum despite Fear limiting him to three attacks, living Ghast close to dead with Jacarei’s trap about to go off. This was a cheery reprise from my attempt to wrestle control of the ball off Ed, or his struggle to keep it off me, which took the form of Zarola and Fahad engaging Dirge who didn’t want to risk being Tackled on a parting blow by moving away.

Silence came in to try and soak some damage from Ghast and ate Jaecar’s trap via the 4″ dodge Game Plan, while Minx repositioned. I killed Ghast in my activation and Theron Moved round to kill Silence, bringing me to four points. Ed hadn’t scored at this point but had taken out one of my players, however (Theron, who’d had to come back on to save the rest of his team from Ghast). Zarola was not surrounded by Mortician players and barely surviving off Unpredictable Movement and taking parting blows to escape melee ranges. Things were not looking ideal, especially as the ball was about to be in TheWrongHands™.

In turn four Zarola tried a slightly dodgy pass to Fahad (two dice) and missed. The ball didn’t scatter well and Graves intercepted it. Zarola was then killed. Fahad Furious’d into Graves to tackle the ball, but since Graves is actually good at football and the cat was intended to murder things, Graves had no trouble getting the ball back off the cat. Theron swung round and reminded V-Hemlock that despite her new gothic image she was still subject to the mortal coil by landing all three of his shots into her, leaving her too low to risk using her HP for character plays – or so I thought.

During turn five Obulus was Midnight Jog’d and ignored the fact Hearne had got the ball off Graves by asking him, via Puppet Master, to pass the ball over. Hearne did, and Ed found a way to score – so he did. This put Ed on 9 points to my 6, as I think Graves or Obulus had gone down in the fight after Fahad was left to Bleed to death, but with about a minute on clock. Not a good place for me, especially with Theron and the ball too far apart for him to manage a kill and a take out in a single activation, or even a second if I went first next turn. Theron did manage to kill V-Hemlocke, however, bringing me up to eight.

With the clock still clearly running out, I won the roll off for initiative and undertook a decidedly janky goal run. Fahad came on from the right side of my field, meaning Zarola could charge Graves or Obulus (I forget which, apologies – probably Graves, as Obulus’s UM would keep him safe unless he’d been trapped, meaning Ob died earlier), picking up the ball en route, get a momentous dodged off the play book while hoping the Crowded Out Graves wouldn’t or couldn’t counter attack effectively, then pass to Fahad who would take the dodge, then a Midnight Jog, then Linked straight into his turn to sprint towards the goal and get a one dice tap in for victory.

Complicated. Bold. Unexpected. And everything absolutely went to plan until I realized I’d forgotten to put any influence on Fahad. Head in hands and disappointed with myself, I called it there as I’d clocked a point to Ed and wouldn’t be getting any more in my next activation, which would clock him up to 12. He’d played well, and I’d failed to prepare the proper tools to snatch Victory from the jaws of defeat.

Game 3 – VS Richard ‘BeardMinis‘ Keeling (Farmers)

Our teams were as follows:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Egret, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Richard: Grange, Peck, Jackstraw, Harrow, Fallow, Millstone.

Finding a gift waiting for me on the table in the form of a custom Beardminis dice, I immediately had a good impression of Ritch. I sincerely hope I gave him a Surrey Spartans one in return, and if I didn’t I will next time I see him. He and his playgroup had all had custom shirts designed, and his said ‘lovely chap – horrible NPE’. For those unfamiliar with the acronym, ‘NPE’ is a Negative Play Experience’. This translated as someone who was going to be fun to play, but a tough challenge. I’d watched a few of his youtube videos so knew that anyway, but this was a welcome warning and reinforcement of that.

With my wealth of experience with Farmers, I was confident I could control Grange. What I did not have any experience with was what Fallow could do to a 3+ Defence/1 Armour model. Hearne survived by simple virtue of Ritch targeting V-Minx first; Minx did not survive, and I didn’t manage to finish her off despite some early harassment from Theron – thanks, Harrow.

I managed to disengage Hearne via forest a few times before he eventually succumbed to the damage train too – although Fallow had got off said train, having been safely Pinned by Theron and not confident enough of taking on the Hunter captain alone to move closer. She wasn’t that unhealthy, thanks in part to Harrow but also largely to Ritch spending a momentum or three every turn to keep her close to or at full health. However, I did manage to sneak a goal with V. Minx, freshly returned to the field. A pass dodge and a Midnight Jog took her safely up for a Charge to where Harrow was trying to smuggle the ball away into the Farmers’ half, and despite his earlier success at hitting counter attacks didn’t manage to stop Minx taking the ball with ease.

At the start of turn four V. Minx dodged out of Harrow, round the chicken and into an easy jog for a snap shot. This went in and Ritch kicked out to the scrum on the left side of the pitch. Then Hearne died, and Fahad shortly after, so Grange moved off to support the murder nan while Millstone went for a snap back goal, which was successfully disrupted by Zarola much to my relief – Ritch was only 4-3 down, and going to 4-7 with as much field control has he had would have been terrible for me. Killing two of the Farmers seemed unlikely unless I took some pretty big risks, and I didn’t want Ritch to have another chance to take a shot as he could happily reform the mobile scrum Farmer’s liked to have and roll over any Hunters failed to escape.

Next turn Ritch had to spend repositioning, which bought Theron enough time to kill Jackstraw after he had tried to take the ball off Egret, Zarola having passed it to the other side of the field from the Farmer’s team. With my spare influence I Pinned Fallow again, hitting yet another two dice character play much to Ritch’s increasing frustration. He pointed out it would be nice if I could miss just one of them, and I shot back with “Not for me!”. After my first misguided attempt to engage the Farmers’ scrum I didn’t want to let them have their way!

With my Hunters now in a much more predatory position, despite the ball of Farmers coming together,  I took a risk with Theron. I walked into the centre of the board and had him wail on Fallow, knocking her down and snaring her, while Blessings of the Sun Father meant even if she did stand up she was – you guessed it – Pinned. The rest of the Farmers were still too far away to catch him, but they did get to Zarola. She managed to activate and Midnight Jog Fahad into a decently safe position before dying as well. Once again, her Unpredictable Movement was made useless by only having a 1″ reach compared to the Farmers pretty standard 2″. 6-5 now and I was feeling confident of snatching the game from Ritch.

Fallow died to Theron at the top of the next turn, and he Pinned Grange but I forgot the forest meaning Ritch could clear conditions on Grange and safely charge my captain. Bad news, as it left Theron in a very bad place, but part of the plan – the somewhat unsafe and risky plan, but it was still pretty good. Egret passed the ball to Fahad who dodged up field, and then Harrow got into Theron for a bit more damage. Fahad jogged past this, carefully forgetting he was Furious, and dropped the ball on the opposite side of his base from the Farmers, and within easy sprinting distance for Minx to collect and shoot with. Theron died (to Millstone, I think), but Minx scored bringing me the win – and none too soon!

I played the first couple of turns like a fool, doing what I tell everyone else not to do with Farmers – man up on them. My Hunters were far too fragile and I paid for that mistake hard. Had Ritch got his goal, the game could have ended differently. The latter part of the game, however, I locked down hard enough for Ritch to say I deserved his shirt – John Parish said to take it as a compliment and I do. Hunters, at their heart, are a control team and not playing them as such leads to defeat. While Theron is an absolute beast, he’s not indestructible and certainly wasn’t taking risks with a Farmers’ scrum – especially one piloted as competently as Ritch was doing!

Game 4 – VS Marcel Dowideit (Brewers)

Teams:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Egret, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Marcel: Esthers, Scum, Veteran Decimate, Friday, Spigot, Hooper.

There were two things about Marcel that are clear on meeting him. The first is that he is definitely half giant – the man loomed over me while sitting down! Had he dropped Guild Ball and taken up body building, I have no doubt he would have looked more like something out of Norse or Germanic myth than he already did. The second thing about him was that he is one of the kindest, friendliest people on the planet. This compensated, somewhat, for him putting Veteran Decimate on the table.

I kicked and tried one of the awkward kick offs that are becoming popular with the Surrey Spartans. The theory runs that if you can line up a shot that will scatter somewhere truly impossible for your opponent to retrieve, or to retrieve and kick it, you win first turn. Not the game, but first turn. The 66% chance of failure kicking like this often incurs is worth it as the enemy team are likely going to have the ball anyway if you kick off safely.

So when the Theron managed to kick the ball directly to Friday’s feet (twice) I wasn’t as upset as I could have been. I played very cagey in my first turn, trying to wait out the inevitable V. Decimate assault I knew would be planned – Matt Doran, long time Brewer, flat mate, and unashamed user of the V. Decimate crutch has taught me a lot about how Brewers want to play her. All I had to do is not let Marcel do that.

This meant that while she activated last, a missed passed denied her the 4″ dodge she needed to get off the line. Marcel had a wealth of momentum, however, from passing it around and my safe play had only managed a minimal amount of damage on V. Decimate and Egret getting to annoy my opponent by Flurry’ing Hooper, Friday and Esthers. Game Plans wise, Marcel played Seize the Initiative so we both got to 4″ dodge one player. I chose Theron, as he was within 6″ of the board edge and had a 1″ melee while being within charge distance of V. Decimate. This translated as ‘dead meat’ due to V. Decimate’s potential for pushing people off the board edge. Marcel dodged V. Decimate closer so she’d only have to jog over.

Which she did, engaging V. Minx. Thankfully my counter attack wasn’t wasted as Marcel rolled just enough for a double push and nothing else (good Jawbone Trap placement putting Minx to  5+/1 armour). Minx hopped back with a dodge, keeping her out of pushing distance of the edge so Decimate laid into her and got her down to about half health. I again played cagey, having learned from Ritch last game that taking risks too early could kick me in a lot of bad places. Marcel was forced to activate Esthers before Egret and regretfully used her Heroic to clear those around her of conditions earlier than he wanted and had to group his team up again in an effort to reach Decimate. Egret jogged forwards, popped Gluttonous Mass with a Snap Shot and Flurry’d the lot of them again before using Back to the Shadows to escape, and I finished with Theron and Minx taking Decimate down to low HP, knocked down and snared.

Minx activated first, since I was swimming in momentum, and finished off Decimate with an influence to spare so she jogged over to Esthers and popped Gluttonous Mass before using Blessings of the Sunfather to put up Marked for Death. With Zarola and Egret slowly sneaking up on Friday, who was holding the ball, Marcel activated Friday first and moved her to put the rest of his team between them and my would-be strikers. Theron took the opportunity to charge into Esthers and proceeded to take her from full to nothing in a single round – wrapping on my first attack for a double momentous knock down, one damage and snare helped a lot!

The rest of the turn saw a scrum form on my right side of the pitch, half way into Marcel’s half. Over the course of a couple of turns Hearne managed to finish off Friday before Hooper did a massive fourteen damage with two attacks – one was a charge, but still; fourteen! Two attacks! This left him on one HP and he was finished off the next turn, although Minx snuck through the melee with some dodges to tackle the ball off Friday before Hearne killed her, giving me a fairly safe shot on goal.

This brought to me to 10-2 up, and Marcel was clearly frustrated that I wasn’t letting him Brew while I Hunted. If I had, I’m sure I would have lost. Brewers, like Farmers, are very good in a crowd and Hunters are not. Theron went down but I picked up Spigot for a 12-4 win.

Throughout this game I think Marcel could see a lot of my plans before they bit him. The fact he feel in to them despite seeing them coming is more testament to the limitations of the Brewers guild rather than his ability. Already being slow, the fast paced Hunters and the Snared condition did him no kindnesses, and I played the entire game at arms reach except when I wanted to dive in. Even then, in a one-sided scrum, Marcel managed two take outs. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Marcel, and I regret that he didn’t find the game interactive enough to enjoy fully. I made sure to keep up with his progress though and wished him a good journey back to Germany before we left on day two.

Last shout out in this game goes to the cat-on-cat combat that dominated two thirds of the pitch simply because every other player was in the scrum on my right side of Marcel’s half. I’d placed Fahad too far out to be of use and Marcel didn’t want to risk influence on Scum so the two kittens had a play fight involving Fahad Furious charging Scum and Scum bouncing away on unpredictable movement. Between them I think they covered more ground in the game than any other two players, and I like the idea that while the humans tried to play their silly game the cats got on with what they wanted to do.

 

Intermission

Day one drew to a close, my score being 3-1 wins to losses. Matt Doran, David Dyson and Maria Wieland shared that stat line, with Barry G on 2-2 and Richard on 1-3. Everyone had enjoyed it thoroughly and was looking forward to day two. In the meantime, Matt had been going on about a game called Laser Riders since the UK Masters and so we grabbed it from behind the bar (with permission, after Barry and I were shouted at for being too loud) and threw down.

Laser Riders is a screaming, neon thrill. It plays basically like the Light Cycle tournament in Tron – which, if you haven’t seen, you should. Movement and light trails are designated by templates, reminiscent of X-Wing as John pointed out. They’re left on the board until someone drives into them, at which point all templates behind the point of impact are removed and go back to the owning player’s pool, and the person who crashed has to miss a turn to respawn. Each character has a special ability which added a lot to the play styles, and are reset when one of your objective capture points is taken by an opponent. My character, Laser Shark, added the longest straight available in my template pool to my movement and then I died if I didn’t score a capture. Barry could set up two subsequent turn manoeuvres without taking a spin check (most of which I failed when trying to turn). Matt could not die for a turn, while John could set someone to maximum gear, thoroughly screwing up their turn at best and at worst (or, best, from John’s point of view) making them crash. I won a game as did Barry before we moved on to Perudo.

Also known as Liar’s Dice, we conscripted another Richard (Green?) as ours had gone to bed and ended up having eight or nine people playing. We were all drinking, but I thought it was a good idea to have a couple of shots as well – mixed into my drink. The wisdom of why I did this escapes me now, but I’m sure I had a good reason at the time. We were eventually asked to leave Element Games by the very friendly but somewhat long suffering barmaid Emily. While we were certainly buying a lot of drinks, she was bringing them to our table which was on the far side of the gaming floor from the bar and we were making an awful lot of noise. Thankfully we were tolerated, and possibly even entertaining, until we were eventually told to go to bed as they were closing the bar. This was sometime around two a.m., a great strategic decision from us for day two games, and I was thoroughly drunk into the bargain.

I would not be forgiven, ever, by any of the Spartans present if I didn’t mention that Emily very kindly did my shoe lace up for me before we left. I must have looked a lot worse than I felt if she didn’t think I could manage it by myself, or possibly she was just aware of how much I’d drunk and was concerned for the additional threat of tripping this entailed. Thankfully I didn’t make any inappropriate comments while she did it so I wasn’t banned from day two of Vengeance for harassing the Element staff.

 

Vengeance Day 2

Game 5 – VS Tom Panah (Fishermen)

Teams:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Jaecar, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Tom: Corsair, Sakana, Angel, Salt, possibly Greyscales, possibly Jac?

To say I was hungover would be an understatement. Matt was also feeling unwell, so to say we leapt out of bed with excitement on day two would be a lie. Breakfast helped, as did roughly a million J2O’s and six litres of water across the day, but I was never going to be on my A-Game for game five. This is demonstrated by my imperfect recollection of Tom’s line up, for which I apologise and if he or anyone can fill me in I’ll correct it. I’m not saying I definitely would have beaten Tom if I’d be in perfect health, not at all; I just might have stood a chance.

Tom is a friendly, amiable dude who runs a youtube series for T&G and I often watch them on the treadmill at the gym. My attempts at conversation with this friendly, amiable dude were utter failures since I felt like my brain was under construction and had the same sort of processing power as a potato. I would like to apologise to Tom for my condition, as it may not have been the best experience.

As I said, being hungover wasn’t the real reason I lost. Tom played a very good game and had learned from day one (damn him!) that Shark was sub-optimal going into Hunters – or, at least, sub-optimal compared with Corsair. The game started well, with Angel losing half her life to range plays, but that was probably the best part of it for me. Tom very ably kept her health pool at just too healthy to burst down with anyone, while also not letting the control play I managed to put in place drive him to despair.

Corsair made it into combat, as I was sure he inevitably would, and started doing Corsair things. He knocked down Theron, did some damage, put up One-Legged Stance and scored. Great news. I kicked out conservatively and took an activation, trying to play cagey, and Tom demonstrated to me exactly how fast Sakana was. I haven’t played against Sakana that often, so while I was wary I was not as wary as I should have been. Charging in, Tom tackled the ball and had Sakana take a second goal in as many activations! I hadn’t even killed anyone yet and I’d almost lost!

Kicking out much more ambitiously I sent Jaecar after the ball. I am sorry to say I cannot remember how I scored my four meagre points, but I believe I eventually took out Sakana and Angel before Tom had Corsair finish Theron and picked up another of my team for a 4-12 victory to him.

Tom didn’t drop the ball (pun intended) once and played at a very consistent and competent level. Without any clear mistakes to take advantage of there was not much I could do, and I think I panicked after the second goal and tried to force things – which doesn’t work well as Hunters, and definitely not into Corsair. I still enjoyed the game – I rolled dice, killed a fisherman or two, laughed not just to cover the screaming agony dehydration was dragging my brain through – and would definitely be up for a rematch some time. Like I said, I won’t and can’t say I would definitely beat Tom, but I’d like a shot at it!

Game 6 – VS Ben Redmond (Butchers)

Teams:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Jaecar, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Ben: Ox, Veteran Gutter, Princess, Shank, Meathook, Brisket.

Ben had the unfortunate poor luck to match up against Hunters as Butchers, which is a match up I think that heavily favours Hunters. I’d also had a few games against Ox courtesy of Richard leading up to Vengeance, so was pretty sure of my game plan. I received, collecting the ball with Theron and since V. Gutter was in range I set her up for a bad turn two and slowly advanced my line to present no easy options. Ben moved forwards and prepared for a throw down I wholly anticipated delaying until sometime after the heat death of the universe.

Instead of focusing Gutter, I set Theron the job of Pinning her, Snaring Ox and placing his forest in as many awkward locations as possible. This meant Ben couldn’t engage in turn two anyway he wanted, and left Meathook somewhat extended. She was mugged by Hearne and V. Minx while Zarola cheerfully jogged up the field, safe in the knowledge that none of the Butcher on that side had a 2″ melee.

In turn three Ben had clearly already had enough of seeing V. Gutter stuck doing nothing and sent Ox over towards Theron as well. This was perfect in my book, and now Theron was tying up two very useful players. He just had to do it carefully enough that neither of them got into base contact – especially Gutter, who could safely ruin his day with her 2″ melee. Brisket was involved in the proto-scrum I’d tentatively taken part in and went down to my 2″ melee bruisers while Theron played keep away. Ben did however almost manage to get into Theron for the next turn, clearing Snared and Gliding through my forest with Gutter before throwing a Grapple Hook at him. Sadly for the players dressed in red, it missed.

Turn four Ox charged Theron, activating Get ‘Em Lads! beforehand. Gutter was close enough now that this would spell doom for Theron if Ox didn’t just straight up kill him, so I cunningly did not declare a counter attack – I didn’t want Ben to think he had to take the knock down, giving me that possibility that he wouldn’t. He didn’t, throwing some damage and Butchery onto to Theron. I counter attacked the next strike, as Ox had fewer dice, and he didn’t hit the knock down. My counter was the double dodge (on two results, which only added to Ben’s frustrated with the Hunter’s captain) and Theron got out of harm’s way. He then immediately activated, Pinning Gutter and Snaring her and Ox before sprinting off behind an obstacle for added annoyance.

Nothing else much happened, apart from Shank finally getting to the scrum, but most injuries were healed on both sides. Brisket had jogged back on and Ben moved her forwards, glumly aware she had no way to stop Zarola scoring. Thankful of this, and looking to further my lead (I think I was 4-3 up at this point) Zarola promptly failed to take her shot and the ball fell just in front of the goal post. With Brisket a scant few inches away, suddenly the game was back on.

I managed to edge initiative, having to reluctantly use Grudge Match as I expected Ben to throw out a +7 card and my momentum lead wasn’t sufficient for anything else. He played Seize the Initiative, and I dodged Zarola onto the ball and in cover of the post. Ben, interestingly, didn’t dodge Brisket back to engage her but instead dodged Gutter to be more relevant in the fight that was breaking out – it was hardly a scrum, as there were no Crowd Outs going on, but everyone was close enough to someone to stab them.

Theron had three influence on him this turn, as I wanted him to be considered a threat while being able to something useful in his activation. He Pinned and Snared Ox, then Snared Gutter via a Blessings enabled Snipe, and then set down his weapons and set his mind at rest to endure the storm that was about to come. Ben cleared Snare on Ox, and sprinted around the forest. Ox got to Theron. Ox hurt Theron lots. Theron managed to survive, but it didn’t look good for him.

Ben did not even try to get the ball of Zarola, who hard a solitary one influence on her and was hugging both the ball and the goal post fervently while yelling “SUCK MY UNPREDICTABLE MOVEMENT!” at Brisket. Brisket left, and there was some fighting. Gutter finished off Theron, and I brought Shank pretty low. At the end of the turn, Zarola scored a Bonus Timed tap in that nearly missed while in base contact with the goal post, making me wander if she understood the point of the game or the concept of kicking a ball.

The next turn saw Ox kill another Hunter while I took down Shank before V. Gutter came in and didn’t heal as much as she’d wanted to – taking four damage a turn from Theron had added up despite the intermittent healing she’d received. She went down and the game ended 12-7.

Game 7 – VS Jason Mountain (Union)

Teams:

Me: Theron, Fahad, Ulfr, Veteran Minx, Hearne (the first) and Zarola.

Jason: Veteran Rage, Coin, Mist, Gutter, Hemlocke, Benediction.

My final game of the weekend was against Jason Mountain, who is ranked sufficiently highly above me on Longshanks – the online competitive ranking system for Guild Ball – that I was surprised to be ending up playing him. Bad dice, bad match ups or just bad days; whatever brought him to my table, he was there. With an encouraging shout of “F*ck him up!” from John Parish (this was John’s tactical pep talk for me before every game of vengeance) I went over to the table.

I never know what to expect when I meet very capable and high ranking GB players. My only other competitive gaming environment that I played in person was Magic: The Gathering, and generally I felt those people were not there to enjoy the game. They were there to win, and everything else about the event was coincidental at best and incredibly annoying to have to deal with. This included ‘fun’ and ‘interacting with your opponent’. However, having met a lot of GB players from across the ability spectrum, I usually find they don’t meet this stereotype. Is that GB as a system, or is my stereotype dated and no longer accurate? Either way, Jason was definitely a good laugh to play and good person to meet so I was glad to have whatever lurking fears were in my mind blown away.

Our pregame chat led me to what is usually considered a dubious tactical decision; instead of Jaecar I played Ulfr. I had three reasons for this: V Rage loves a scrum and Hunters generally don’t want to let him have one; aside from Mist, who doesn’t have Where’d They Go?, Jason didn’t have any 2″ reach footballers; I had achieved four wins and honestly felt like a change, and having a little bit of fun. At the largest tournament I’d ever been to, against the opponent I was most likely to need my a-game against. Yes, that was my thought process.

Also John dared me to do it, and I wanted to prove Ulfr isn’t unusable.

I kicked off with Theron, getting the ball awkwardly behind a barrier. While Hemlocke could easily sprint to it, she couldn’t pass the ball over the barrier. Jason did try, and I almost didn’t remind him he couldn’t actually pass over it. I’ll be honest, I did question whether I was getting him confused with another Jason Mountain that was good at Guild Ball, but in fairness this was game seven of a two day event and everyone was feeling a bit frazzled. Jason thanked me for reminding him and kicked to space near the centre of his half. Things did not get better, as the kick scattered a full six inches and ended up in my half. Confident things couldn’t get worse, Jason rerolled his scatter, as the kick had been successful – and proceeded to roll exactly the same result.

V Minx sprinted up to the ball and a little back, safely out of reach of Jason’s team as he kindly measured. I want to point out that Jason played a very clean game, reminding me of threat distances and measuring his charge ranges for me before I’d finished moving. Either he’s just a clean player, or I seemed to need the help that much – I had, after all, put Ulfr on the field. I was grateful for it and want to thank him again now – especially as my half of the pitch was a mess of tokens, irrelevant influence and measuring sticks by the end of the game. I try to be a clean player, and I think I achieve it, but I am a very messy player. I hope this didn’t cause Jason any headaches during our game!

With ball control and Hemlocke within Theron’s range, I felt pretty confident. Jason moved forwards as best he could, apparently taking the professional view that as he couldn’t do anything he may as well not worry about it. At least, this is how it came across; whether his calm, friendly exterior was a mask to cover rising panic, I’ll never know. Theron charged Hemlocke at the end of turn one, successfully taking her down to a single health with Hearne lurking close enough by with the ball to make my intentions abundantly clear for turn two.

I won initiative in Turn 2, playing Seize the Initiative. I dodged Hearne further up the field so he could cover the mid ground and pass to Theron without having to move. Jason dodged Hemlocke away from Theron and into the centre field. This was fine with me, as Hearne activated and passed to Theron, who dodged within shooting distance of the goal with no-one close enough by to get in the way. Hearne then KO’d Hemlock, snaring Gutter into the bargain. The rest of my turn was a fairly safe affair of keeping away from the Union team and using ranged plays to harass them while Jason once again resigned himself to moving up, using Benediction to body block most of his team from Theron. Theron activated, shot at Gutter after sprinting and scored. In retrospect this may have been a mistake, as I gave up ball control, but I was very confident that if Jason scored I’d be able to get a snap back and a second take out in short order.

Jason went first next turn and moved Benediction into range of V Minx, Zarola and Ulfr. I spent most of the turn disengaging and taking parting blows, with all my players going in different directions to do so. The plan was that Gutter, who moved into the fray, and Benediction would at best get a couple of points of damage on my players, especially the Zarola and Minx with they’re 5+ defense. Unfortunately Gutter appeared to be on perfect form, knocking down both Ulfr and Minx as they tried to leave. Zarola got out with a light scrape, but it still didn’t look ideal for next go so I charged Fahad in with the hope of crowding out or distracting Jason’s players.

What actually happened was Fahad died, as did Ulfr, to a combination of Gutter and V Rage. Hearne got back involved and took out Gutter in return, so I was still looking fairly safe on 8-3. I just had to get the ball off Benediction, who effectively killed it in Jason’s last turn by putting Braced on himself. Jason said after the game he hated people killing the ball, so I raised this play – Jason accepted that, but pointed out the score line basically required it and even then he hadn’t been wholly confident with a half health gutter coming on near his goal post and dangerously close to Theron.

I managed to sneak initiative and brought Ulfr and Fahad back on sort of central, sort of relevant to the scrum. This was because, while they were effectively another three points to Jason if they were caught, I needed Ulfr for a play and Fahad could block charge lines with his base and thereby protect Ulfr. In my first activation, rather than let Jason get the ball to Mist, who was dancing around on the far left of the board and away from everything, I used Where’d They Go to get Ulfr a charge line on Benediction, managing to hit a sweet spot where I got the Lone Hunter bonus and wasn’t crowded out. Jason declared Poised and, I believe, did not spend his momentum to defensive stance.  I managed to wrap the charge in a tackle-double dodge which put Ulfr in place to pass to Theron – which he did successfully! Ulfr had just snatch a win from a very jagged set of jaws! I just had to dodge Theron sensibly and this is where I fucked up.

Minx had just come back on and I was worried about her, so dodged safely out of her range. I did not measure distance on Mist, and Jason didn’t offer – partly things were tense for him, but also because it required a decent bit of measuring around the scrum, and it absolutely wasn’t on him to do this in my turn if I hadn’t remembered Mist could move like Sonic.

Mist then moved like Sonic and managed to tackle the ball off Theron and pass it away. Frustratingly, Jason had saved his game. For reasons I can no longer explain, Theron did not immediately murder Mist. Instead, I went after Gutter who was out of melee engagement range. I think my plan was to get her Pinned and bait her in, then kill her in the next turn while Rage happily murdered Minx left Hearne on his last legs. Both these things happened: Gutter was Pinned and charged Theron, while Rage finished of Hearne and Minx. This put the score to a more tense 8-5, but as we picked up our remaining Game Plan cards Jason realised he’d forgotten to heal Gutter.

I got Initiative and Theron finished Gutter off, then marched over as close to Mist as he could manage and managed to hit the striker with two ranged plays. Mysteriously, I’d forgotten that Jason had control of two-thirds of the pitch by virtue of having a scrum in the middle-left of the field and so I did not Pin Mist, as I was worried this would take him towards the already activated Theron and away from my full stacked respawned Minx – as if Jason couldn’t run Mist into his team for protection! This decision, I think, was another seemingly small mistake I made in a game I needed to make no mistakes in.

Jason immediately ran Mist over to the scrum, hiding him near cover and healing him. Minx couldn’t get there any more but Ulfr, with two influence, could, so I tried and managed a bit more damage. Rage killed Hearne and tried to catch Zarola, but I finally – for the first time all weekend – got use Unpredictable Movement. I’d reminded Jason earlier in the game, and he’d said thanks but reassured me he knew about it, and right then I was too tense to be overly-open with rules reminders. Nothing much else happened in that turn except some scrabbling for momentum and Hemlocke coming in from the far length to be relevant next turn.

I won initiative again and tried to finish off Mist with Ulfr. This was unsuccessful and Jason dodged him out and healed him again by activating Rage and passing the ball, then wailing on Ulfr. I didn’t react, because dodging out would just give Rage freedom to charge, but in retrospect this may have been a better idea. Since he’d brought Gutter on safely out of reach Theron had a long slog back to the action and I had to activate Minx again to try and block Mist’s shot on goal. I managed to engage him and tackle the ball, but the counter attack meant I had to hit him again to keep it. Since Minx’s tackle is non-momentous and I’d stupidly blown what Ulfr had earned on Bonus Time, when Jason activated I couldn’t stop him taking the ball off Minx and lining up a two dice shot on goal.

Jason had hummed and haa’d about whether to earn some momentum with Benediction first for Bonus Time, but chosen not to and rolled a two dice shot on goal – which missed! In full panic mode I charged Fahad in with only Furious, hoping to lower Mist’s health enough to be easy pickings next turn – which the murder cat safely did, dealing five damage to the Snared striker. What I should have done is picked up the ball with the cat, as Jason activated Benediction and earned the momentum he wanted while my next activation was just moving Zarola to crowd out Mist some more. Jason then sprinted with Hemlocke and took a shot on goal, which went in and he brought what had been a thrilling game to an appropriately tense and hard-fought climax!

It was a great way to finish the weekend, and I don’t regret losing. Sure, I could have maybe won if I’d changed my play as I’ve noted here, but hindsight is twenty-twenty and all that matters are the plays you make on the pitch. Jason earned his win and I had made it difficult for him, and I am glad I got to through down against such a skilled and friendly opponent. I will definitely be killing for a rematch sometime however! I’ll get you next time, Mountain!

So closed an exciting weekend of thrills, spills, and being reminded I shouldn’t drink as heavily as I used to. I hope you enjoyed this longer game report, and look forward to others. I’m at the next Solent Slugfest soon, and since I’d failed Ross Tully by not writing up the first event he ran I kind of owe him this one. Until next time, ‘sports’ fans!

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